Friday, March 24, 2017

Is it muscle memory or is it all in my head?

Last night I had my weekly ice dance lesson during an extra public session which our rink typically adds during the last two months of the skating season.  I wasn't feeling particularly perky on Tuesday, my regular lesson day, so we moved things around.  In truth this was good because at least for now, few members of the "public" have discovered this session and so one gets nearly empty ice at a bargain rate--perfect for an old geezer attempting to learn a dance.

I've been working or the Cha-Cha for about six weeks and although I have the steps pretty much memorized I just couldn't get my head around executing the first chassé step which is immediately followed by a wide step.  At the end of last lesson I could do those steps.  At the beginning of last night's lesson the feel of them had departed to where ever such bits of information go.  If they decided to slip off to the Keys I wish they'd taken me with them...

So, Coach A. and I burned the first fifteen minutes of my lesson reviewing those steps.  She'd demo them, and then I'd go through the motions--wrongly, but couldn't sort out how to correct the mistakes.  Finally instead of counting the beats while I skated she instead said: "PUSH, CROSS,  CHAAAA--SAY, WIDE STEP."  I can't tell you why, but somehow I could suddenly (and properly) execute those four opening steps and after being released from their grim grip, I could get on with skating the rest of the dance, including the pesky tuck and slide which makes up the Hors d'oeuvre  part of the end pattern.  In my limited and somewhat painful experience, if you make it pass that tuck behind and slide then you'll have no problem with the final step of the dance, which is an inside swing roll.  After that you either repeat the dance or take a bow.

People yap about muscle memory and yes, in order to capture the above mentioned steps I spent the remaining part of the session after my lesson trying to get the rhythm of her voice ingrained in my legs.  But--the initial part of learning is way too quick for muscle memory.  It's mental.  However, to consolidate a skill and make it stick I've got to move what ever I've just learned from my brain down to my legs or it'll be off in the vapor before I can take off my skates and go through the lobby doors on my way to the car.

We skated the dance a few times partnered and I made a mental note that next week's lesson will need to address that tuck and slide thing.  Yes, I can stagger through it but it's not a thing of beauty.  She'll need to coach me on upper body positioning so that I have my weight correctly placed to make those steps to happen without the sensation that I'm stepping on a banana peel, but that's next week's breakthrough.  And of course there's timing, pattern placement on the ice, extension, toe pointing and expression to polish.  I might have this thing test ready by Christmas.

We finished the remaining few minutes of the lesson reviewing the opening steps of the Swing Dance up to the Mohawk turn, after which I'll need to skate her steps going backwards.  That's fodder for another day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Now these Kats kan dance!

This is not on topic for skating but, my oh my, I could watch the Nicholas brothers all day.  I wonder how many piano lids they tapped their way through in a season?  Anyway, watch and enjoy their great tap routine, which starts about the 1.32 minute mark.  Don't forget to click full screen.

I'm still working of the Cha-Cha and the Swing dance.  The Swing will force me to refine my wonky right forward inside Mohawk and get comfortable with back edges and back swing rolls.  I'd better double down on more padding!

If I watch this a few more times I might, as Cab Calloway suggests, start"liking my eggs on the Jersey side".

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

Still here.  Been busy racin' boats down in FLA.  You can read about all that over on my sailing blog if you want:

Back on thin ice I'm still chipping away at the Cha-Cha.  Just couldn't get my head around how the first chasse step flows into the following wide step or how to transition from the final slalom/chasse step into the RFI edge which starts the end pattern of the dance.  Last Tuesday Coach A. and I picked up where we'd left off before I disappeared for a week with me trying to verbalize that which I didn't understand and she trying to demo the bits.  That approach was going nowhere fast so she told me to just follow her as she did the dance.  After a couple go-rounds things finally started to click.  We did the dance partnered and then she wanted to have me skate it solo so she could watch my feet and see how far off pattern I'd get.

The Tuesday evening Free-Style session during which this weekly lesson takes place tends to be busy-busy.  Folks in military circles would refer to it as a "target rich environment."  Some may remember my post about how my rink was finally adopting the convention of the skater with the right of way wearing an orange vest.  Sadly that appears to have been a passing fad.  Last Tuesday night music was playing, skaters were skating, but no orange vest was to be seen to indicate who was "in program" (i.e. who had the right of way).

I pushed off on my solo skate.  Somebody's music was playing, but who's music?  Who knows?  I had just started the slalom section of the dance when I suddenly felt contact from behind.  In my surprised state it took me a few seconds to figure out (as I accelerated from the push) that another skater and I had collided back to back.  For a minute I thought we'd be able to stay on our skates and ride out the momentum but in the end we both slid down to the ice.  As I went down I found myself thinking "you'll soon find out who's music that was."  My "assailant" turned out to be M. a young, powerful adult lady who was practicing some advanced field moves pattern with lots of power 3-turns and backwards skating.  I was going forward, she was skating backwards at the time of contact.  Thankfully neither of us sustained injury, her probably due to being young, strong and flexible, me by virtue of  lots of D3O padding.  We scrambled to our haunches, offer joint apologies and continued about our respective business.

I don't think twice about wearing padding.  A man of my considerable gravitas needs all the padding he can lay hands on.  I am totally beyond such questions as "Tell me the truth, does this Ice Halo make my head look phat?"

One question I am wondering about is: do I need rear view mirrors or maybe a signal which beeps when I back up?  Perhaps mirrors like the ones cyclists clip onto their sunglasses could be incorporated into my next Ice Halo.  Or maybe I could get Volvo to design a wearable "BLISS" system.  How Volvo gets the acronym BLISS out of Blind Spot Detection System is anyone's guess but I suppose it does have a cheerier ring than calling it the "BS Detection System".  Maybe Volvo could incorporate all that into goggles with a head's-up display giving me coordinates indicating how far off pattern I am in a given compulsory dance, the range and bearings to nearby "targets", "objects of interest" on collision courses and so on.

Goggles with such a display probably aren't happening during my skating life time.  As Mark Knoffler would say:

"Sometimes you're the windshield 
sometimes you're the bug; 
Sometimes it all comes together baby, 
sometimes you're just a fool in love."

Say, maybe a version of this tune might work with the Hickory Hoedown.  

Final observation:  Afterwards, I asked Coach A. whether or not I blurted out a stream of profanities as M. and I death-spiraled down to the ice.  This is a concern--after all I am a sailor and so have a reputation to think about.  She said "Not that I heard."  I swear that woman massages the truth.